Tag Archives: Love

I am constantly reflecting and all the joys and sorrows of last year, trying to drag out another lesson to make all the blood, sweat and tears seem worth it. About this time last year I was holed up in an old convent in Cornwall, wondering why on earth I’d thought a silent retreat was a good idea. It was one of the toughest weeks of my life - right up there after the death of Grandparents but slightly before that one week when I was 15 and convinced that all my hair was falling out and I'd be completely bald by 17 (THE TEARS).

But, je ne regrette rien. Especially after I read this and realised why it had been much harder than I'd expected:

In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding; no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me—naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken—nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.” Henri Nouwen

In that week of solitude I was stripped of scaffolding - no friends to talk to, no social media to update, no work to attend, no music to sing and dance along to and no books to transport me to far away lands. I didn’t have to check in with my people and see how their week was going, I didn't even have to decide what to cook. All that was left was the truth of who I was without all those things to validate my worthiness of life/time/attention/love or distract me from the lack of it.

Naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived and broken.

And yet, I've realised that that place of nothingness can be the birthplace of freedom. Because in that place, God holds a banner over us for all the world to see proclaiming that we are loved and we are valued - despite all things we would rather hide and all the things we are too ashamed to even acknowledge.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do to earn God's love or make God love us more - not pray our way there, not read our Bible more, not attend church more, not go to The Gambia and not even give away our very last Rolo. You are worthy, simply for being you.

Without realising, I'd let a notion of earning worthiness creep in and set conditions around something that has always been extravagantly wild and free. Who I am without my scaffolding is enough. Who you are without your scaffolding is enough. Nothing from your past can change that, nothing in your future can steal that; not our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow. Whether we are high above the sky, in the deepest ocean or on a silent retreat, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus.

Being rooted and grounded in God's unwavering love for us in our place of nothingness can give us the power and confidence to live free from fear - of the judgement of others, of tomorrow, of the valley of the shadow of death, of loneliness, of looking like a fool and yes, free of even the fear of Brexit. Life in all its fullness transforming nothingness into a place of JOY - you know the place - beautiful sunrises over the mountains, a fridge full of lemon tart (made with fairtrade lemons and no palm oil, obvs and dancing for joy along to your favourite 90s pop and 00s indie rock songs.

I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your heart as you trust in him. May you be rooted and grounded in the soil of God's marvellous love. And I pray that you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep God's love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great we will never fully understand it.

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By Jessica Hagy
By Jessica Hagy
This simple diagram has led me to so much fun and gotten me in so much trouble.
I love comfort. I love not having to embrace the difficult, the stressful and the uncertain. And yet…
Life outside my comfort zone has taught me things I couldn’t have learned any other way. Life outside my comfort zone has developed my character and helped me to grow in faith and hope and love.
Life outside of our comfort zone is both exciting and terrifying. There’s always the possibility of failure with a side plate of embarrassment and wounded pride. But there's also adventure beyond anything we could imagine.
Ever been asked what you would do if money were no object? Apparently, retire tomorrow and travel the world with my friends is not the response people are after. But maybe the question is too narrow – it assumes our only limiting factor is finance. Perhaps a better question would be: what would you do if you trusted even just a little bit more in the goodness, faithfulness and love of God? What would you be brave enough to attempt?
Would we be bolder? More adventurous? More generous? More loving? More forgiving? More hopeful? Would we find it easier to ignore the lies of doubt, fear and worry? Would we be more willing to push the boundaries of our comfort zone?
Jesus said he came to give us life in all its fullness. A fullness which empowers us to make decisions based on faith and not fear. Faith that God loves us beyond our understanding and there's nothing that can separate us from his love. Faith that God is with us wherever we go - whether we're riding the wings of the morning, going into a difficult situation or even to The Gambia. Faith that God is good all the time, and all the time God is good - whether everything goes well or whether we have to rise from the ashes.

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Confession: This life outside the comfort zone is not the life I usually live - I like comfort, did I mention that already? Though occasionally, I dare greatly enough to start a chain reaction that means I have no choice but to leave my Empire of Comfort and embrace the terrifying, exciting, uncertain and unknown. Case in point: I've waved a fond farewell  to my colleagues and have quit my job with no plan  more detailed than 'travel/volunteer in the general Africa or Asia area.' There’s not much about this that sits in my comfort zone.
I keep being told I’m brave, I don’t know about that – brave, foolish, there’s a fine line between the two and given that it feels like I’ve set my life on fire and at least five times a week day hour I ask God what I’ve done and why I couldn’t be content to just be normal, it certainly doesn’t feel brave. Rachel the wild hippy with flowers in her hair would be disappointed at my inability to embrace this unknown. So here I am, currently navigating the outer reaches of my comfort zone – if anyone wants to come join me YOU’RE MORE THAN WELCOME - I have drinks, food and an epic playlist. The sunrises are amazing and the night skies are devastatingly beautiful. And I have a small idea of where we might end up. Everyone but my Nan and sister will love it!
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Sometimes I make myself sick because the very fact that I've written this post means I need to go out be be braver than I want to be. Well done Rach.
What would you do if you trusted even just a little more in the goodness, faithfulness and love of God? What would you be brave enough to attempt? Dare greatly team.

I collected conkers yesterday, which can only mean one thing - summer really is over. Did you have a good one?
Me? Mine was pretty amaze dot com. I danced the night away at four weddings and climbed a mountain.img_20160926_230918
I love seeing my friends so happy and in love. I love how much it makes everyone else happy. I love celebrating with them. I love dancing. I love good food. I love open bars. And I love cake. Good times. I am not in favour, however, of the All the Single Ladies Bouquet Toss. Women can have jobs and vote now and everything. 
I do however love new places and seeing new ways of living. I like to think I love experiencing new cultures but actually I think I love knowing I’ve experienced life in a different culture more than actually having to navigate how different cultures work.
Question of the summer: What will you do with your one wild life?
Listening to some music on the mountain and this one lyric resounded in my head for hours – what will you do with your one wild life?
There I was, on an actual real live mountain, having trekked up beyond the clouds, camping with no running water or electricity, on as near an actual wild adventure as I’ve ever been and all I could think about was how to make my life more wild.
I’m not talking crazy hedonistic wild, or even far out once in a lifetime adventure kinda wild. But the unpredictable, whimsical, running free, overflowing, joyful wild of our choice to live unconventionally building the kingdom and loving more.

“Living a life fully engaged and full of whimsy and the kind of things that love does is something most people plan to do, but along the way they just kind of forget. Their dreams become one of those "we'll go there next time" deferrals. The sad thing is, for many there is no "next time" because passing on the chance to cross over is an overall attitude toward life." Bob Goff

What will you do with your one wild life?
Play it safe? Chase waterfalls? Stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to? Have it your way or nothing it all? Or take that risk, start the journey up the mountain? Live a wild life full of whimsy?
In the dull moments of work I used to text my friend, “Maybe we’re wasting our young years.” Now I no longer think about the young years (a sign of my increasing wisdom with each birthday I'm sure) but instead  I wonder what to do with the time that is given to us.

I want to go barefoot because it’s holy ground; I want to be running because time is short and none of us has as much runway as we think we do; and I want it to be a fight because that’s where we can make a difference. That’s what love does.” Bob Goff

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I’ve never had any known enemies (well, apart from that one girl at school who mistook quietness for weaknesses – her mistake). But I recently overheard a conversation that jolted me from the verge of an exhaustion induced breakdown halfway across the Atlantic, to wide awake and brain running faster than a Concorde at the realisation that maybe I do have enemies.

“So, the UK are joining us in bombing ISIS now, so that’s good.”

I was in a travelling induced news vacuum when the UK government were voting on whether or not join the USA in bombing ISIS when I overheard a conversation between a couple of air stewardesses. I’m a peace loving almost hippy. I’d never thought about having enemies. Ones who stand against what I believe in and would take my freedom and even my life if I stood against them.

“So, the UK are joining us in bombing ISIS now, so that’s good.”

I don’t know what it was about how she said it. Maybe it was her sunny Californian accent. Maybe because she had just been talking about calling her parents and her nephew’s baseball game. But for some reason I sat up (not like I had a choice flying economy) and took notice.

“So, the UK voted to join us in bombing ISIS. So that’s good.”

Really? That's a good thing? Since when was bombing people a good thing? Since when was taking someone’s life a good thing?

Jesus told us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 4:43-45). I don’t remember him saying kill them because they hate you, kill them before they kill you.

You can argue that it’s easy for me say that because ISIS haven’t driven me from my home, haven’t killed any members of my family and from thousands of miles away from the people and places they are destroying its easy to say don’t kill them.

I don’t pretend to know what the solution is.

But I do know that killing more people isn’t going to help. I do know that killing more people will only fuel the hate and anger of those who agree with ISIS both abroad and here in London.

I do know that standing by and just watching what happens isn’t an option either. I don’t pretend to know what the solution is.

But apparently there are some people I should be praying for - peace and a change of heart for starters.

This has been going round and round and round and round my head all day.

During breakfast, work, prayer meeting and everything in-between I could not escape it.

Maybe I still need to hear it.

Maybe you need to hear it.

Maybe we both need to understand it better.

 

I will not take my love away
When praises cease and seasons change
While the whole world turns the other way
I will not take my love away
 
I will not leave you all alone
When striving leads you far from home
And there's no yield for what you've sown
I will not leave you all alone
 
I will give you what you need
In plenty or in poverty
Forever, always, look to me
And I will give you what you need 
 
 

Today was the church AGM (social highlight of the year obvs). Maybe not the easiest of things of follow (accounts completely baffle me) but important all the same. During the Q & A section a friend turned to me and said “What do you want to see Rach?”
I gave my standard answer when my head is empty but full of wondering what exactly the implications are of  the restricted and unrestricted funds section of the accounts – “Good question. I’m not sure, haven't thought about it that much.” Which to be honest isn't the whole truth. I know what I want to see in the Church as a whole, but I’d never really thought about what I wanted to see in my local church. 
Which is kinda lazy and crazy (check tha’ rhymes) given that one of the reasons I chose to attend St Peter’s was because I believe in the vision of the church. But I guess part of that was me signing on to someone else’s vision. Which is strange because I have a million and five opinions on what I think the Church should look like, and yes, some of these opinions definitely contradict (keeping track of a million and five opinions is hard work).
So what do I want to see?

It’s simple really - Love. 

I want to see a community of people who Love.

Love God, love each other & love those in our community.

Love that is patient and kind. Love that is not jealous, or boastful or proud or rude. Love that does not demand its own way. Love that is not irritable or counts when it has been wronged. Love that rejoices in truth and justice. Love that never gives up or loses faith. Love that endures through every circumstance.  

An all encompassing love that is good news to the poor, comforts the broken hearted and sets captives free. 

I want to see a people who give freely, serve joyfully and worship faithfully.

A family where all are welcomed and no-one is left out. 
A family who rejoices with you in times of celebration. 
A family who helps carry you when you’re in a valley and all is dark.
A family who is right beside you through all seasons of life.

In other words I want to see a church that looks more like Jesus and less like the rest of us. 
So the challenge to myself is am I one of those people? Am I contributing to the Church I want to see?
Not always.
But the great thing is that there’s always an opportunity to start.
Shoutout to one of the YWAM crew for the photo.

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I've been asked quite a lot lately about what living ‘as a community’ actually means. My father thinks I live in a commune – I’m not that much of a hippy just yet (but I have started wearing more tye-dye clothes whenever I go home, just to freak him out a bit you know).
Each week living as a community means something different.
Last week was definitely about choices & being intentional.
Sometimes it’s just carrying out decisions that you’ve already made as a group:
  • Choosing to share incomes and contribute to living expenses on the basis of what you earn and can afford
  • Choosing to buy food as a household and cook together (one simple rule avoids confusion and the crushing disappointment of opening the fridge to discover the food you were dreaming about all day has gone - if you wan’ it then you gotta put ya name on it)

Or decisions that you need to make together:
  • Choosing to spend time together (you know your lives have gotten too busy when you have to schedule 8am breakfast meetings with your flatmates so that you can all get your diaries out and book in time to spend together over the next two months)
  • Choosing to pray with each other
  • Choosing to pray for each other
  • Choosing whether or nor to invest in a tumble drier ( with four girls a tumble drier is definitely for the win!)

And then there are the daily decisions:
  • Choosing to not throw a book/table/chair at you roommate when she sings that one line from that really annoying song for the millionth time that day
  • Choosing not to throw your roommate out the window when she tries to have a conversation with you before you've had breakfast, even though she knows you can’t deal with it (for those of you wondering - I had breakfast half an hour before our breakfast meeting)
  • Choosing to forgive your flatmates when they don’t even realise you feel wronged
  • Choosing to say sorry when you don’t understand what you did wrong/knowingly did something wrong
  • Choosing to invite people into your home when you really need a night off to watch Gypsy Weddings
  • Choosing to clean more often than you think necessary because you know that in the same way you can't deal with mornings, your flatmate can't deal with mess
  • Choosing to share your burdens with others and help others carry theirs'
  • Choosing to sing along to Bryan Adams at the top of your voice while you cook dinner with your flatmate (Bryan Adams – For shame! Minus 5 points to Rachel)

But then there are the days when the sun is shining, life is perfect (enough) and the harder choices, that require more courage and greater love, are o so easy to make. 
And then community is less about making choices and more about just living your life, with maybe a bit more grace and depth and love then you might otherwise have done. 

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So where I live (the Shoreditch end of Bethnal Green. Or the Bethnal Green end of Shoreditch, depending on which direction you’re coming from) there are heaps of homeless people. Any main road seems to have at least two guys sitting outside The-Supermarket-That-Shall-Not-Named or next to the cash point asking for any spare change. And I don’t know what to do about it. This is the conversation I have with myself every time I am asked if I have any spare change:

You can’t give money – it’ll only be used for alcohol and drugs. Do you really want your money to support  the local drug dealers?
Who says he’s gonna spend it on drugs? And why is it your business what he does with the money you give? Jesus asked you to help those in need and clearly he is in need.  God has entrusted you with that money – it’s not yours.
But I don’t think God wants his money to be used to support the local drug dealers either. And there are plenty of services out there to help. Maybe this guy prefers a life on the streets and so why should I support him in something that clearly isn’t healthy?
You know it’s rarely as simple as that - no one dreams of a life on the streets. You might be right; he might be most comfortable with living on the streets but it never should have come to that. And who are you to judge?
He’s here every day. He must be getting enough to survive on. So why should I give him anything?   

But you can’t just ignore him – how is that loving your neighbour?
So I could give him food. But he didn’t ask for food. He’s asking for money. Seems a bit cold to stop for a chat but not offer him anything. So what do I do?

I don’t even agree with all these arguments. But, for one reason or another this is what runs through my head and affects the way I act. Most days I hurriedly say ‘Hi’ as I walk past. But on the days when I’m feeling braver/more generous/more loving I stop for a brief chat. And sometimes give money.
But when I walk away I never know if I’ve done the right thing. Or if there even is a right thing?
And then I wonder 'Am I sheep? Am I a goat?' *
And how can I pray for a solution to his problems if I’m not willing to at least be a small part of it?
Answers anyone?
*For those of you wondering how a farm animal metaphor got thrown in check Matthew 25 v 31-46

                                         

...that make you smile...
  • People wearing sunglasses. On the tube. In winter – correct me if I'm wrong but there’s no sun under the ground. And no sun in winter (give or take a couple of hours here or there). So take off your sunglasses. Unless you’re Cyclops. If you’re Cyclops you should keep them on.
  • Getting the front seat at the top of the bus.
  • Tea and cake and friends – goes without saying really.
  • Beating your flatmates home in the ‘I’m-gonna -prove-that-this-mode-of-transportation-is-quicker-than-yours’ race. Bus for the win!
  • Seeing London lit up at night as I go across Waterloo Bridge on my way home after work (sitting on the top deck at the front of course)
  • Watching people run for the bus – not that I would ever do this, especially not if I were racing my flatmates home.
  • Seeing someone smile when they read a text/email.
  • Memories of New Zealand and South Africa – LOVE to the YWAM crew.

...that make you cry...
  • Being stuck behind a bunch of school kids on the tube escalator – Move. Out. Of. My. Way. Before. I. Kill. You.
  • Hauntingly Sad Sad Music.
  • Meeting a homeless man, shivering in the freezing cold and being unable to solve his problems.
  • Having a doorman tell me I don’t look 19, look at my driver’s licence and then say “Really?” when he works out how old I am, shrug his shoulders and let me in.
  • Meeting a man who had served as a Gurkha for 15 years but having been in England for 2 years is now homeless and sleeping rough.
  • People overwhelmed to tears with relief and gratitude when handed food at a foodbank.
  • The girls in Perspex heels, long coats and lots of makeup who smoke outside the table dancing club round the corner.
  • Going to the cupboard for the last piece of cake, only to realise that you ate it yesterday and in keeping with the trying-to-be-a-healthy-house-policy there are no sweet things other than raisins *sigh*

 

...that make you laugh...

  • Having an ambiguous ethnicity. No, I am not Chinese, Nepali or Brazilian (genuine questions I have been asked by three different people in the last few weeks).
  • London 2012. What. A. Joke. Super excited for the athletics though. 
  • Watching someone jump to get on the tube, only to get their rucksack stuck outside. 
  • Public transport in general.
  • The Usain Bolt virgin media ads – they’re just too good. Five points to whoever came up with those.
  • My flatmates.